Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Book Review : Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami


Author         : Haruki Murakami
Genre          : Noir fiction
Pages          : 229
Edition        : Ebook
Rating         : ♥♥♥♥♥

Sputnik Sweetheart is about a girl named Sumire. Sumire who dresses in an oversized coat and heavy boots has dropped out of college and is bent on becoming a novelist. K, the narrator is an elementary school teacher, 25 years old, easy-going, kind and intelligent. K is very much in love with Sumire but she does not feel the same. Miu the woman Sumire has fallen for is a succesful wine importer, stylish, independent and confidentwoman. Miu who is seventeen years older and married represents everything that Sumire wishes she could be. Sumire believes she has fallen truly in love for the first time. This is the first time she has ever been sexually drawn to anybody. Love has transformed Sumire. She buys nice clothes, changes her hairstyle, gets a better apartment and becomes Miu's assistant. However, she also develops writer's block. She spends hours on the phone with K discussing big questions in life : love, sexual desires and existentialism. K, who listens willingly but has to bite his tongue because he himself is deeply in love with Sumire. 

Miu and Sumire set off on a business trip to Europe, leaving K behind to console himself in a series of meaningless affairs. While travelling abroad together, Sumire and Miu become romantically involved. K begins to receive letters from Sumire. One night, K gets a suprising call from Miu who asks him to fly to Greece and mentions that something strange has happened to Sumire.She has vanished without a trace. He drops everything and goes. That is when the stories come apart to reveal each other in a hypnotic kind of way.

This is one of those books you need to read at least once in your life. The book has so many beautiful phrased metaphors. Lynguistically it is poetic and lyrical. This story is told from a man's point of view, K which bothered me because Sumire is a lesbian. Suprisingly, Murakami did a wonderful and great job to identify with a lesbian female. This book is beautifully evocative yet i find it difficult to define. Murakami lets events speak for themselves. Don't expect rational explanations or perfectly tied up plot because Murakami is a master of manipulating without appearing to do so!

I love the idea of exploring love, loneliness and search for self through travel. Each of the protagonists is a loner at heart. They look for a soul connection, someone to talk to, someone to sleep with and most importantly, someone to free them from loneliness. The protagonists are emotionally unavailable. Sometimes i find it is hard for me to describe their characters perfectly. What amaze me the most about this book is how Murakami wants to raise our curiosity about travelling to a spiritual place instead of a tangible place.

Murakami succeded in making me think outside of the box. The main character of this book Sumire feels extremely, spiritually connected to K and feels a great deal of love for him but in the platonic, non sexual sense. K also feels the spiritual connection with Sumire, but he feels a sexual desire that she does not reciprocate. It is a similar situation among Miu and Sumire. Sumire feels both platonic love and sexual desire towards Miu. Miu loves Sumire as well but she can't reciprocate the sexual desire. K who is disappointed fulfills his sexual desire thorough affairs but in the end feel unfulfilled and unhappy. How difference is love from lust? If sexual affairs can't keep a man happy and feel fulfilled, then what can? If love alone is enough to keep us happy, why do we lust after other women or men? If human beings, all the tangible and intangible things we know can't fill our emptiness, can't make us feel happy, can't fulfill our needs and lusts, then who and what can?

This book leaves me speechless. I re-read the last part. I think I was too focused on finding " deep " meanings in the metaphors. The only thing Murakami was trying to say in the ending is that K is ready to open up.

1. We can love one another, but sometimes, we cannot have the people we truly want and desire.

2. The search for self can be accomplished through travel. While Sumire travels abroad, she realises her true feelings for K. As she says, " I really need you, you are part of me and i am part of you. "

3. Our lives are usually defined by our previous events that affect us deeply and we use metaphor and symbolism to explain them.

4. We need to have empathy for others. K realises the effect his affair with Carrot's mother has had on Carrot's family and breaks off the affair.